So you want to improve your writing, but you need a break from the how-to books? Great, because stories aren’t only found in books! Here’s five ways of the many ways you can learn how to create an entertaining story.
1. Watch movie reviews
There’s always going to be haters. Therefore, diversify your sources, especially those who base their review off a set standard. Why do people admire that movie? Where did it fail? Find what audiences love and hate in stories. Also notice the difference between a good and bad montage, or how the universal theme of the story is carried through the entirety of the film versus events being thrown at the character.
2. Study body language
Unlike ‘people-watching’ which is merely observing how humans interact with someone who isn’t you, reading up or watching videos on charisma will make your characters relatable and interesting. Though we can’t read gestures simultaneously with dialogue in books like we can in reality, by accurately applying expressions you will be able to convey a message to the reader the character is unaware of. For example, the male lead may be standing in a line up. He will say to himself she’s cute but not interested; however if he persistently checks over his shoulder he’s either paranoid or lying to himself, searching for a means to strike up a conversation. It is crucial to understand why your characters do what they do, whether or not their words agree.
3. Read children’s books
Because I have babes at home, I’m constantly reading children’s stories out loud impersonating the characters by attempting new voices. If someone read your story, how would they personify them? Some have one word per page with others are multi-paragraph. They don’t always have rhyme and rhythm but they convey stories in limited words. Apply this to your writing. Omit unnecessary words and ideas. Sometimes I paraphrase their books for this reason. If it doesn’t push the story forward or add to character development, put it aside. No one likes a story dragged out. Why should your audience read those sentences if they don’t have to?
4. Listen to music (from a variety of artists and genres)
Musicians pour their heart into their music. With few words they relate to you while sharing their story and the emotions with it. For example, many church-going Christians may tune out a structured in depth theologically sermon, while being completely moved by the latest song. How can a three minute song surpass a thirty to sixty minute presentation? It wasn’t until the last century we replaced quoting poetry for humming song lyrics—even tattooing them on our bodies. What do you quote more: poetry/scripture or songs?
5. Participate in theater
Creating skits or throwing jokes to an audience through the means of ‘improv’ will spike your creative juices. Or if you partake in a scripted performance, note how the dialogue carries the story. Each line brings us to a closer understanding of the characters, carries the story forward, and is exciting. If the dialogue in your story is boring... off with its head! The good news is you don’t need to audition for Broadway—even a little reader’s theater goes a long way.
Obviously, there are more methods to diversify and improve your writing. Overall, here’s the take-home. Your goal in fiction writing is to entertain. You have a story? Neat. Do you make money? Cool. Feel like you have to convert people to your ideology? Gross—don’t be that person. Remember to listen to your audience, your beta readers, and your close ones’ critiques, because at the end of the day, you’ve shared your story for them... not yourself.